by Jeff Lassahn


b. 1986, HK.

Model War Economy, First World, installation view. 4 x 8 x 2 ft.

Model War Economy, First World, installation view. 4 x 8 x 2 ft.

Model War Economy is a gallery installation of intricate miniature models that depict the grim absurdity and economic devastation of Americas’ endless wars. It consists of two table-sized sculptures that present and compare the economies of two miniature nations, one waging war, the other a victim of war. Using tiny replicas of military equipment, architecture, scenery, figures, trains, and vehicles, a peculiar spectacle of global economics and international conflict emerges.

Model War Economy consists of two worlds: First World and Failed State. First World features a combination of wealth and poverty, economic development and decay. A gaudy mansion atop a hill and overly green golf course lie adjacent to a bustling military base. Across a river with tainted water, a closed factory looms over a gaudy bustling liquor store adjacent to a temp agency, while the homeless scrounge for scrap metal as military cargo gets shipped overseas.

Failed State encompasses the essential features of a post-colonial, war-torn Middle Eastern nation. Economic resources are heavily guarded by a pervasive military presence, allowing animated oil wells to keep pumping while urban and rural areas lie in ruin from relentless bombing. Children clamber over the hulks of rusted armor, merchants set up shop amid towering rubble, and civilians flee as refugees to the coast.

The scenes within the sculpture emerge as a documentary of an imaginary world very much like our own. Viewers will be tempted to peer closely to discover unexpected scenes, and a narrative will unfold. Altogether, the piece aims to present an engaging spectacle that conjures up child-like curiosity while confronting the impact of war.

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Jeff Lassahn is an artist in Chicago, Illinois, whose work critiques contemporary politics, economics, and war. His lithographs and sculpture has been exhibited in numerous distinguished venues, including the International Print Center in New York. He is the Associate Director of The Cluster Project, an ongoing series of collaborative artwork about war. In 2016 his satirical coloring book “Color Me Drone Warfare!” won first prize at Union Street Gallery's “Politics Now” exhibition and was published by OR Books, a progressive publishing house based in New York. In 2017 he was awarded an Individual Artist Grant by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, and his Model War Economy project — a miniature world presenting a grim reality of economic devastation and endless war — exhibited at the Chicago Cultural Center.